For Killer Opening Songs Ireland has another meaning: that of a fascinating musical canon. Whether traditional or modern, the repertoire from the Emerald Isle is one to which our regular section always defaults. Tonight it is the turn of a band that, although with only two albums under its belt, has already made its mark.
The Gloaming is a supergroup made up of five successful musicians who first came together in 2011 with the sole purpose of revolutionising Irish music. They have done this by mixing the orthodox with the experimental. The Killer Opening Song of their self-titled debut album is an outstanding example of craftsmanship. On Song 44, singer Iarla Ó Lionáird’s voice lifts and floats as Thomas Bartlett’s piano is kept to almost a whisper. At the same time Martin Hayes’ fiddle lets out a slow, sweet and melodic wail. It sounds like a plaintive note, one that is supported by Caoimhin Ó Raghallaigh on hardanger d’amore and Dennis Cahill on guitar. The spectral-sounding track is sung in Gaelic and has an 800-year love story behind it. A man keeps seeing the woman he loves in his dreams. Midway through the song the tempo changes and becomes more upbeat with the familiar Irish jig making its first appearance only for the melody to return to its sombre tone at the end.
Those looking just for foot-tapping music, however, will be disappointed. The Gloaming is more interested in how far they can push the boundaries of Irish music, not how to conform to already-established melodic patterns. The evidence for this is in the rest of the album. Allistrum’s March is a haunting fiddle-driven instrumental. Necklace of Wrens features words by poet Michael Hartnett. Opening Set is perhaps the standout track in the album. A sixteen-minute-long piece, brooding at times, explosive at others, this is the sort of composition that becomes a classic from the word go.
It is always heartening to see musicians, especially those plying their trade in traditional forms, using their left-of-field, creative power to the maximum. The Gloaming is a good example of this and the Killer Opening Song is one again the living proof.
Next Post: “Saturday Evenings: Stay In, Sit Up and Switch On”, to be published on Saturday 30th April at 6pm (GMT)